Wednesday, October 12, 2016

One Man's Maple Moon: Two Sides Tanka by Lesley Anne Swanson

for my daughter from China and all Asian immigrants

English Original

green tea
black coffee
the two
sides of me
but just one cup

Gusts, 17, Spring/Summer 2013

Lesley Anne Swanson

Chinese Translation (Traditional)


Chinese Translation (Simplified)


Bio Sketch

Lesley Anne Swanson has lived in Northern California, the Southwest, and the Pacific Northwest, but now calls Pennsylvania home.  Always a wordsmith, she discovered tanka in 2011 and has been enthralled ever since. 


  1. Lesley's message tanka works effectively through challenging the cultural concept conveyed in the old adage, "you are what you eat," sparking the reader's reflection on the role of identity in acculturation among immigrants.

  2. Lesley's take on the role of identity in acculturation among immigrants reminds me of one of my immigration tanka, used in my "Poet and Tanka" essay (Ribbons, 12:2, Spring/Summer 2016, p103, which can be accessed at

    ... Tanka is a short form poetry, and it requires the poet to have acute observation skills and a set of literary techniques to distill his/her feeling, thought, or experience to its essence. In his study of Masaoka Shiki's life and work, The Winter Sun Shines In, Donald Keene makes a similar point: “A haiku or a tanka without rhetoric was likely to be no more than a brief observation without poetic tension or illumination" ...

    The rhetorical device of defamiliarization to effectively convey the speaker's sense of estrangement or displacement.

    black coffee
    and Chinese fried dough ...
    in my mouth
    a foreign tongue
    licking these lips

    NeverEnding Story, February 1, 2015
    (For most Chinese people, this food combination of "black coffee/and Chinese fried dough" is weird/westernized; usually, a typical Chinese breakfast includes soybean milk or a bowl of congee and Chinese fried dough)